Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First Grade Research Project

My son came home a couple weeks ago with a letter explaining the research project his first grade class would be doing.  I'm not sure about you, but I don't remember doing a research project until I was in high school.  It definitely wasn't in elementary school!  I was shocked at the assignment, but thought it would be a great teaching opportunity.  Learning how to do a research project would be a valuable experience.  I was ready, and I wasn't about to let him procrastinate so we would be up late the night before it was due trying to get it done!  (I speak from experience with my own past projects.)  Ha!

For the last several weeks, his class has been learning about all the different kinds of animals, and each child would be doing their project on a specific animal.  The family of animals Ross drew out of the jar was amphibians, and he chose to do his project on frogs.

So off to the library we went in search of amphibian and frog books.  We left armed with a bag full of books on amphibians and frogs.  There was a lot of information to be learned in all those books.

As part of their project, they were to do their own research.  Try explaining that to a first grader who doesn't like to read.  Then try every day for a week to get him to do it.  After all, he had about 100 books he could look at!  He finally completed the first part of the project, a word web, and turned it in on time.  Woohoo!

Another part of the project was to make something - a detailed poster, a mobile, a clay figure, a video presentation, a powerpoint presentation,  a WHAT?!  A powerpoint presentation?  In first grade?  I am not kidding you, that was listed as one of the options.  I am a college graduate, and I don't know the first thing about powerpoint, except that it looks pretty cool to watch.  How on earth would I be able to help him with that?  It's a good thing his dad knows about that kind of stuff.  But that is beside the point.  The point is, he had to make something, and I tried for a week to encourage him to come up with some ideas.  I shared a few of my own ideas, but I really wanted this to be his project, so I tried to keep them to a minimum.  In the end, I probably had more of the ideas than he did, but he picked the ones he liked, and he did (almost) all of the work.  I did the hot glueing and the typing on the computer.  (After watching him hen peck the first sentence, I realized we wouldn't get done for a month, so I took over.)

So here we were, the day before the project was due, and he hadn't even started it.  Didn't I say I wasn't going to let that happen?  Yeah, right.  At least he knew exactly what he was going to do.  We had been talking about it all week, and had come up with some pretty good ideas.  We set to work, and this is what he came up with.

They will be graded partly on their creativity and details on the final project.  I think he did a great job in that area.

Notice the smaller male frog "croaking" to attract the larger female frog.  The googly eyes were all Ross' doing.  I thought that was really creative.  All of the descriptions are in Ross' own words.  I helped a little with the fluency, but he came up with everything else.

Recognize any of those stamps?  Ross loves to stamp with me, so using them on his project was a no-brainer.

We pulled grass from the yard, and Ross gathered up some dried leaves and twigs to add a little dimension to his poster.

The baggie at the bottom is mud and leaves at the bottom of the pond.  Thank goodness for the cheapie plastic frogs from the treasure box at piano lessons.  They worked perfect for his project.

We ended up finishing about an hour past his bed time.  Not bad given that I said I wasn't going to do that.  I remember telling him at one point that I was NEVER going to help him with a project the night before it was due EVER AGAIN!  He needed to learn to make better use of his time!

After he was all tucked in bed, I thought I'd better check the letter to see if he had met all the requirements for the project.  He had, but I was shocked when I read that the project wasn't due for another week.  How did I not catch that before?  That meant that I was going to have to eat the mean words I had said to him about not helping him the night before it was due.

The next morning, my bad news/good news was responded to with cheers and high fives.  I don't think he was upset at all.  He was just happy that I wouldn't be nagging him every day for the next week.



Susan Raihala said...


I'm not sure how I feel about these first-grade research projects. My DS1 had to do one as well, and it just seems a bit like putting the cart in front of the horse to me. He's now in 4th grade, and they haven't had a research project all year. Hmmmm. Very strange.

Anonymous said...

As a first grade teacher we are required by the state to teach reasearch writing in first grade.
I also think it's a little extreme. It's one thing to teach non fiction, it's another thing to expect them to be able to research!